We all know that more and more women are working towards education, career, financial stability and maybe even a few carefree years before they enter motherhood these days. Data about the average age of first-time moms in the United States abound, and we have a clear picture of the fact that women are opting to have kids later and later in life.
But there hasn't been nearly as much research about the average age of new fathers...until now. A new study published in Human Reproduction indicates that the age of new fathers is also climbing. Surprising? Not particularly—but it's interesting to see research that focuses on how and when men are approaching parenthood.
First-time fathers are 3.5 years older (on average) now as compared to in the early 1970s (the average age of first-time fathers in 1972 was 27; that number rose to 31 in 2015). The percentage of men entering fatherhood after forty jumped from about 4 percent to 9 percent from 1972 to 2015.The oldest first-time dad observed was—wait for it—96 years old.
Researchers observed global records for about 169 million births to come to these findings.
The fact that men are waiting longer to become fathers makes perfect sense from a societal viewpoint—after all, many of the same factors that have women delaying motherhood are at work here—but it's important for us to recognize the health implications that may come with this. Researchers point out that older men are more likely to father children with autism or schizophrenia.
On the other hand, waiting until you've established yourself professionally (which often doesn't happen when you're just a few years out of school) has some very clear benefits for kids and parents alike. "Older dads" (the researchers classify dads aged 35 to 44) are more likely to live with their kids and be more involved in raising them, according to the researchers' findings from other surveys.
"I think it's important for us to pay attention to these demographic shifts and what their implications could be for society," said Michael Eisenberg, MD, according to a Health Day release. "I'm not trying to sound alarmist. but these are issues to think about."
Ultimately, here's how we see it: We all just have to define the right time to enter parenthood on our own terms. Sure, there may be risks associated with delaying fatherhood—but there are also some very clear drawbacks that come with doing it on someone else's timeline.